President Donald Trump has claimed over and over in the past week — at campaign rallies, on Twitter and in an interview with “60 Minutes” — that the US is only seeing so many coronavirus cases because the country is doing so much testing.
“Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST. A Fake News Media Conspiracy,” he wrote on Twitter on Monday morning.
Trump made similar claims during the summer spike in cases. They were flat wrong then, as we explained in a July fact check, and they are flat wrong now.
Facts First: The spike in US coronavirus cases is not being caused by an increase in testing. The number of confirmed new cases is increasing at a faster rate than the number of new tests. And the number of hospitalizations and deaths is also rising, which shows that, contrary to Trump’s repeated claims, the increase in the case numbers isn’t merely being caused by tests capturing mild cases. Taken together, the numbers tell a consistent story: the situation in the US is genuinely getting worse.
“To say that cases aren’t actually increasing is to deny reality,” Dr. Tom Frieden, who served as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Barack Obama, said in a Sunday email.
“Not only are cases and infections increasing, but hospitalizations — which follow case increases by several weeks — and deaths — which follow hospitalization increases by a week or two — are also increasing. What’s more, the proportion of tests that are positive has increased, and this correlates with increased actual spread of infection.” Frieden added: “The most reliable information is positivity, and this increased in all regions of the country.”
The national positivity rate as of Saturday was 6.1%, per Johns Hopkins University data, up from 4.6% a month prior.
If the increase in reported cases “were due to a very high level of testing, we would expect to see the percentage of tests that are positive be very low, certainly less than 3%. However that is not what we are seeing,” said Aubree Gordon, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan.
On Friday, the US set a new record for reported daily coronavirus cases: 83,757, according to Johns Hopkins data. Through Saturday, the seven-day average for daily new cases was 66,970 — the highest since late July.
The increase in daily cases is far outpacing the increase in daily testing. The COVID Tracking Project, an initiative that assembles and analyzes coronavirus data, tweeted on Saturday that “tests rose 3.8% from a week ago, while cases are up 20.6%.”
Trump has repeatedly suggested that the increase in confirmed cases is happening simply because tests are capturing cases